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“Chemist! What’s your function d’you think in the navy? A meat-loaf?”

Our nuclear submarine is on a training mission. This is the fourth day at sea. The commander had called me over to the central post and now we’re chatting.

“Where’s the air, chemist?”

“Tssk, comrade commander,” I spread my arms in the air, “a hundred and forty people came on board. I checked the entries. But the installation is only good for… (I quote some boring facts and figures), and the directive says… (figures, figures, and finally) … and it can’t do more than that. You see, comrade commander.”

“Why are you stuffing all this arithmetic down my throat?! I’m asking about the air. I’m suffocating. The oxygen everywhere is at 19%. Have you gone off your head? It’s been only four days, we’ve only just kicked off from the base and you’ve already got no oxygen. So what’ll happen next? If you don’t have oxygen, bring it down in a bag! What are we meant to do: hold our noses, tighten our arses and stop breathing until you get us more oxygen?!”

“Tssk… comrade commander… I did warn you this submarine can only take one hundred and twenty people…” “That’s your problem! Go! Get out! If in half an hour you haven’t got twenty and a half percent oxygen in all the compartments, I’ll turn your insides out! I said get out! Stop munching your snot!”

Slipping down the ladder, I unburdened my soul and let off steam:

“A bloody ignoramus! A cavern! A terracotta chasm! That old corrugated… goat! Who’s running this navy? High- school drop-outs! Kings of the parquet floor! Gangs of lost illusions! It’s a shelter for the mentally castrated! A cemetery for rotten burgers! Mor-ons!”

Walking into my post, I screamed at the warrant officer:

“Idiots! Your name is legion! Walking waste of space! Make some air for him! The sort of idiots they draft into the navy! I’m going to stand like a generator now, with my hole pointing up, and I’m going to give him some air!”

I took a few deep breaths, calmed down and said to the warrant officer:

“Fine, right, anyway, go to the cabins. Move up the indicator on the gasometers. You don’t need to add a lot Make it up to twenty and a half.”

“Comrade commander,” I reported in half an hour “There’s now oxygen at twenty and a half everywhere.”

“You see!” said the commander cheerfully. “It’s become much easier to breathe, right away. I feel every degree with my skin. Chemist! Until I stretch your hide onto the globe… you won’t budge.”

“Yes, Sir. Permission to leave,” I said, turned and walked off.

As I was leaving I thought: “He’s feeling better. Ha Pterodactyl!”

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